England goalkeeper Joe Hart is relishing the prospect of facing Manchester City team-mate Mario Balotelli in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.
Roy Hodgson’s side will meet Italy in the last eight at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday, with the winner to take on either Germany or Greece for a berth in the final.
While the Italians can call on the attacking talents of Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale, it is Balotelli who continues to make the headlines.
Hart knows Balotelli well – the pair along with England defender Joleon Lescott played key roles in City’s Premier League triumph last season – and believes the controversial striker could pose plenty of problems.
“He could be a real threat,” Hart said.
“He is a great player but as well as me knowing him, more importantly Joleon knows him and he will probably come up against Mario if he plays.
“I’ve seen him battle it out in training many a time, but it is going to be a totally different occasion – I’ve never actually played against the guy.
“But it will be a lot of fun and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table.”
England have so far exceeded expectations at the European Championship, taking seven points from their three Group D games to finish as group winners.
Finishing on top ensured England avoided a potential last-eight clash with defending champions Spain and will instead face Italy for a semi-final berth.
“It’s obviously a great achievement and something that we set out to do from the start of the tournament,” Hart said.
“We identified the first game against France as key. We wanted to win that game obviously, but to get the draw and produce a good solid performance, and to then follow-up that up with two more good performances after that, makes it a good start for us.”
Italy, on the other hand, narrowly progressed from Group C as runners-up at the expense of Croatia.
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